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Nauru, officially the Republic of Nauru and formerly known as Pleasant Island, is an island country in Micronesia in the South Pacific. Its nearest neighbour is Banaba Island in Kiribati, 300 kilometres (186 mi) to the east. Nauru is the world's smallest republic, covering just 21 square kilometres (8.1 sq mi). With just over 9,322 residents, it is the second least-populated country after Vatican City.
Settled by Micronesian and Polynesian people, Nauru was annexed and claimed as a colony by the German Empire in the late 19th century. After World War I, Nauru became a League of Nations mandate administered by Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. During World War II, Nauru was occupied by Japanese troops, who were bypassed by the Allied advance across the Pacific. After the war ended, it entered into trusteeship again. Nauru gained its independence in 1968.
Throughout the first half of the 20th century, Nauru was a "rentier state". Nauru is a phosphate rock island, with rich deposits close to the surface, which allow for simple strip mining operations; moreover, it has some phosphate reserves which are presently (as of 2011) not economically viable for extraction. Nevertheless, this island was a major exporter of phosphate starting in 1907, when the Pacific Phosphate Company began mining there, through the formation of the British Phosphate Commission in 1919, and continuing after independence. This gave Nauru back full control of its minerals under the Nauru Phosphate Corporation, until the deposits ran out during the 1980s. For this reason, Nauru briefly boasted the highest per-capita income enjoyed by any sovereign state in the world during the late 1960s and early 1970s.
When the phosphate reserves were exhausted, and the environment had been seriously harmed by mining, the trust that had been established to manage the island's wealth diminished in value. To earn income, Nauru briefly became a tax haven and illegal money laundering centre. From 2001 to 2008, it accepted aid from the Australian Government in exchange for housing a Nauru detention centre that held and assessed the refugee claims of asylum seekers who had arrived unauthorised in Australia.
The island has one airport, Nauru International Airport. From January to September 2006, Nauru became partially isolated from the outside world when Air Nauru, the airline which served the island, ceased operations in December 2005 and left the island accessible only by ship. The airline was subsequently able to restart operations in October 2006 under the name Our Airline with monetary aid from the Taiwan.
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